Michelle Pannor Silver is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto with joint appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health and Society (ICHS). Her research examines ways that cumulative life experiences influence health, well-being, and adaptation to later life course transitions taking an approach that has employed multiple research methods. Dr. Silver’s primary areas of research include: 1) examining retirement, as both a deeply personal decision and as an important social phenomenon; 2) perceptions about aging; and 3) health information seeking behaviors.
Her book, Retirement and Its Discontents: Why we won’t stop working, even if we can (forthcoming 2018, Columbia University Press), develops the argument that traditional definitions of retirement can lead to discontent among those whose personal identity has been strongly tied to their work. The book questions the lure, appeal, and enticement of a generalized retirement that is defined as no longer working and asks: What becomes of those, whose departure from their life’s work means losing a core and fundamental component of their personal identity? Retirement and Its applies narrative gerontology to share the stories of a range of retirees grapple with their retirement. It ultimately examines the larger structural problems that society must grapple with as we confront the mismatch between an idealized retirement and the reality of giving up identity, income, and status.
Dr. Silver has led a number of studies about physician retirement, including the first set of systematic reviews examining physician retirement planning (Silver, Hamilton, Biswas, & Warrick, 2016) and adjustment to retirement (Silver, Hamilton, Biswas, & Williams, 2016). In collaboration with graduate students in anthropology and in public health, she has taken a qualitative approach to demonstrate academic physicians’ struggles with personal identity and retirement (Silver, Pang, & Williams, 2015), a mixed methods approach to examining barriers retirement planning (Silver & Easty, 2017), and employed a multi-method qualitative approach to illustrate how tensions between multiple generations of physicians can complicate institutional succession planning (Silver & Williams, 2018). Her work has raised awareness about physician burnout, personal health, and social responsibility as it relates to retirement (Silver, 2016) and highlighted concerns about retirement among women in medicine and rural areas, ultimately questioning the lack of a public pension program for physicians in Canada (Silver, 2017).
Her research has also generated important insights about the heterogeneity in women’s retirement experiences, through the development of typologies of a range of women who self-identified as retired (Silver, 2016) and by analyzing of three measures of wellbeing among recent and long-term retirees and comparing these outcomes to women who identified as homemakers (Silver, 2010). In addition, her research has followed a line of inquiry about mature adults’ information seeking behaviors to uncover a unique relationship between later life outcomes and earlier life exposures as it relates to Internet usage (Silver, 2014) and to reveal problems with older patients’ use of the Internet to identify and treat a health issues (Silver, 2015).
Her current research projects examine: perceptions about aging and productivity; work hour preferences among older workers; embodiment, aging and athletic identity; later life gender disparities in life expectancy and age norms in public pension systems; and health information seeking behaviors.
Dr. Silver also holds cross appointments in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health/IHPME; the Institute for Life Course and Aging; and the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Her research has been supported by grants from the Connaught New Researcher Award, the Mitacs Accelerate Program, the UTSC Research Competitiveness Fund, and the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan. She received a BA, BS, and MPP from the University of California, Berkeley and a PhD from the University of Chicago.